Pi Avi Fund

The Peter Inglis Avalanche Education Fund will again be hosting Telluride Backcountry Chats at the Wilkinson Public Library this winter. (Courtesy photo)

Winter weather provides many an opportunity to enjoy the many wonders of the outdoors. But a fun day in the backcountry can quickly turn sideways, if one doesn’t take into consideration the current conditions.

The Peter Inglis Avalanche Education Fund (PI Fund) aims to arm anyone who would like to get outside during this time a year with the proper knowledge to have a good time.

The PI Fund was established in 2015 in honor of Peter Inglis, the longtime Telluride ski patroller, search and rescue member, and founder of the Telluride Mountain Club who tragically died in a cornice collapse in Alaska in 2015. The PI Fund is a subsidiary of the Telluride Mountain Club. The mission of the PI Fund is to create opportunities for avalanche education and backcountry user awareness. The PI Fund helps fund free avalanche education forums (Telluride Backcountry Chats), backcountry awareness events, scholarship assistance for individual avalanche education courses, Telluride’s backcountry radio program, and other avenues that positively contribute to and influence avalanche education and user awareness in the Telluride region.

Chris Dickson was hired as the PI Fund’s new director last January. He’s excited to grow programming and reach within the Telluride community.

“For years, Heidi Lauterbach with the Telluride Mountain Club nurtured the PI Fund and helped it establish itself within our community. Last winter, the PI Fund hired me as the new director with hopes that I could help continue to grow and improve our programming, including our scholarship program and our Backcountry Chat community forums,” he said. “This year, the fund is hoping to give away more money in avalanche education scholarships than ever before, and we are hosting some new and exciting community events.”

The Backcountry Chats start Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Wilkinson Public Library and are the second Thursday each month thereafter.

“These events are a great way to get the community together for presentations, discussions and education focused around how we can recreate more safely on snow in the backcountry,” Dickson said.

He added that av education is only getting more expensive, so the PI Fund’s scholarship opportunities aim to help those looking to take such courses.

“We live in avalanche country, and we have a robust community of winter backcountry recreationalists, and our nonprofit is here to engage with and support that community in an effort to increase our overall safety. With that in mind, we provide scholarships to local folks who need some financial assistance in order to sign up for their avalanche education,” Dickson said. “The cost of these avalanche education courses has increased significantly in the last few years, and, as such, we're hoping to give away more money this year than we ever have. The deadline to apply for these scholarships is Dec. 16, and we are currently in a fall fundraising campaign to support this part of our mission.”

The PI Fund is kicking off the winter by building some “local stoke” with a free ski movie fest at the Transfer Warehouse on Dec. 9.

“We're highlighting some of our local ski talent by showing films made by three local pro skiers, who will be in attendance to talk about their films and why they support increasing avalanche education in our community,” Dickson explained. “The event will be a fundraiser with some raffle prizes, beer, pizza and some epic ski flicks.”

Of course, it’s never too early to start preparing for the backcountry.

“Our main goal is to create more awareness about the PI Fund and what we do for the community. We also want to grow the amount of money we are able to give away for scholarships,” he said. “Additionally, we're hoping to engage and educate more young people about the dangers inherent of living in these snowy mountains. Someday, we'd like for every single local sixth-grader to receive some in-school avalanche education, and we're going to work towards making that happen.”

For more information, including to donate, visit telluridemountainclub.org/pi-avalanche-fund.